April 14, 2009

Bulk view

Managing virtual assistants: My process for managing talk deadlines and information

  1. Log on to docs.sachachua.com and open my Talk planning spreadsheet.
  2. Click on the last tab near the bottom of the page. (Talk planning)
  3. Select the F and G columns, right-click on the column header, and choose Insert 2 Left.
  4. Select the D and E columns, copy them, and paste them into F and G columns. Delete the TEMPLATE header.
  5. Replace the date and title from the text.
  6. Fill in the other information about the talk.
  7. Log on to Toodledo.com in a separate window, and arrange your windows so that you can see the spreadsheet and create tasks at the same time.
  8. Scroll down to see the tasks on the spreadsheet. The dates should be automatically calculated based on the due date of the talk. Manually set the dates if any were specified.
  9. In Toodledo, click on Folders, and then add a folder with the title of the talk. Then go to the To-Do List and add the tasks (shortcut key: n). Specify the folder, due date, and length based on the spreadsheet and/or talk information. Set the context to “home” (unless I indicate otherwise) and the tag as “presentation”. For the tasks before “Call or e-mail organizer to confirm details”, set the start date to be one week before the due date.
  10. Create a Timesvr reminder for two hours before the presentation with the following text:
    Please call me on my cellphone to remind me about the upcoming talk on (talk title). Remind me of the title, the time, the organizer’s name, and other information.
  11. Create a calendar entry for the presentation on my Sacha – Main calendar, including the talk title and organizer contact information. Add location, transit instructions, and driving instructions if specified. E-mail me when you’re finished.

For reference, this is what the left side of my spreadsheet looks like:

DATE OF TALK
Title of talk
Organizer contact info
Duration
Length Task Days
30 Send organizer title, abstract, bio, and picture -21
15 Get talk details -21
30 Outline talk -18
120 Do background research -14
60 Assemble detailed outline -7
150 Write pre-talk blog post -5
60 Storyboard presentation -4
120 Make presentation and send it to organizer -3
10 Call or e-mail organizer to confirm details -2
60 Give presentation 0
60 Post recordings 1
30 Update ROI spreadsheet 2
Talk information
Abstract
Bio

Young and savvy

Over at My Two Dollars, Diane Hamilton wrote a post decrying how Millennials “have been raised to expect immediate gratification” and that “everyone is bending over backward to meet their needs” (which popular media has been harping on for a while). She proposes adding more financial courses to colleges and K12, developing personal finance books geared towards younger kids, and sharing mistakes and lessons learned with kids.

Heh. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but want to stick my tongue out at popular media when it paints Gen Y with too broad a brush (and yes, that applies even when they’re bringing out the “Gen Y Will Save the World!” stories).

Especially when it comes to Gen Y and money. It’s true that more and more people are struggling with student debt. In many countries, younger people felt locked out of the real estate market because older people had more assets and could bid up house prices. Now they feel locked out of the real estate market because of less access to capital and lower earning power. And of course, there are many younger people who have moved back with their parents in order to save money, a phenomenon much remarked-on in popular media.

Two words: sub-prime mortgages. Who got the economy into that mess, anyway? ;) But this is the world we’re growing up in, so we’ll just have to help fix it.

But you know, it’s not that bad. =) Here’s what I think about money and my generation: Most of us have seen way too many people make way too many mistakes about life, about money, about all sorts of things. It doesn’t mean that we won’t make our own set of mistakes, but it does mean that we’re generally not as clueless as media paint us to be. ;) The Gen Yers I’ve talked to keep tabs on their spending and plan long-term investment, look for ways to be frugal, and are pretty darn good at using all sorts of new tools to manage their money and learn more.

Then again, I’m weird, and maybe many of my friends are weird too. ;)

Schools: while I’m all for introducing more real-life education into schools, parents should take responsibility for teaching their children financial savvy. Children can have the best lessons in school, but if they come home to parents neck-deep in credit card debt and still spending on unnecessary things, or who laugh at the idea of saving for the long-term for people in their twenties, something’s wrong with that picture.

Don’t just share your mistakes. Share the good things you do. Share your decision-making process. Share your goals, too. Lead by example.

I’m really lucky to have money-savvy parents. My mom and my dad set up their own business, funding all of their growth from a little capital they had saved up and from reinvested profits. My mom taught me how to use the envelope method to manage my money without feeling constrained by a fixed budget. She also taught me never to carry a balance on my credit card, to resist the temptation to spend excessively on consumer goods, and to plan for the long term. Both my parents taught me to spend where it counts.

It’s not hard to do something like that too. Instead of getting all worried about Gen Y and immediate gratification, practice conscious spending and reflective action yourself, and you’ll teach people of all generations along the way.

SO:

  • Gen Y isn’t all that bad.
  • People can teach other people through example, and parents should definitely take responsibility for helping their kids learn. And it’s not that hard–just do the right thing yourselves, and share what you’re learning.
  • Try to avoid popular overgeneralizations. It’s easy to take one of the polarized perspectives from popular media (“Gen Y is bad!” “Gen Y is good!” “Gen Y is just the same as everyone else!”), but you can miss out on more thoughtful discussion.

As for Gen Y being spoiled kids at work–you have to wonder how many of the things we ask for are common-sense. ;) Work-life balance is something I think a lot about, but it’s good for everyone. Focusing on results rather than on face-time–again, that’s a business best practice. Wanting opportunities to be engaged, to do work that you’re passionate about? That makes sense for everyone, too.

My team would be the first to tell you that they adapt to me at least as much as I adapt to them, and they’d also be quick to reassure you that this is a Good Thing. ;)

How to extract just the audio from Sametime Unyte recordings, on Linux

I use Sametime Unyte for web conferences at work. Unyte allows you to record your teleconferences (slides and audio), and you can download a ZIP containing Flash video after your session.

I usually extract the audio track and publish that as a separate MP3 so that people can listen to it. I can also have the audio file transcribed. The audio track from Sametime Unyte is of lower quality than my voice recorder, but it’s a good backup and it captures both sides of the phone conversation.

Here is one way to extract the audio using Linux:

for FILE in *.swf; do ffmpeg -i $FILE -ab 64k $FILE.wav; done

Then you can concatenate all the WAV files:

sox *.wav all.wav

Then you can use Audacity to edit the resulting file.